Indian forces kill 7 suspected militants in Kashmir fighting

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SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Seven suspected militants were killed and four soldiers wounded in two separate gunfights in Indian-controlled Kashmir, officials said Friday, triggering anti-India protests and clashes in the disputed region

Militants hid inside a mosque as government forces cordoned off a neighborhood in southern Shopian town on Thursday, police said. The gunmen refused to surrender, triggering a fight that ended on Friday, police said.

Lt. Col. Emron Musavi, an Indian army spokesman, said five militants were killed and three soldiers and an army officer were wounded.

The mosque suffered damage in the fighting.

As the fighting raged, Shopian residents marched near the clash site in solidarity with the rebels and chanted slogans seeking an end to Indian rule. Government forces fired shotgun pellets and tear gas at the stone-throwing protesters.

There were no reports of any casualties.

Separately in the southern Tral area, government forces killed two rebels in a brief battle on Friday, Musavi said. He said troops recovered seven rifles and two pistols.

Meanwhile, gunmen fatally shot a soldier visiting his home in southern Jablipora village on Friday, police said, blaming rebels for the killing.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, both of which claim the territory in its entirety. Many Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the region, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

New Delhi describes the Kashmir militancy as Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.